Book Club

Book Review: Wabi Sabi – Beth Kempton’s Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life

By March 4, 2019 April 11th, 2019 No Comments

I thought I had a reasonable understanding of the term, ‘wabi sabi’ until I read Beth Kempton’s book.

To be honest, I’m still not sure I can articulate a definition with any clarity that would do it justice but I sure do appreciate the research the author (a Japanologist and life coach) has conducted in her pursuit to break down the principles for her readers and demonstrate how they can be applied to modern living.

According to Beth, “there is no universal definition of wabi sabi in the Japanese language. Any attempt to express it will only be from the perspective of the person explaining it.”

I know I picked up this book because I am drawn to the aesthetic sense of wabi sabi and yes, I guess I had formed an understanding of wabi sabi based on the visual characteristics associated with the concept: Natural tones, organic materials and imperfect, textural surfaces.

As it turns out, there is so much more to know.

Beth has a master’s degree in Japanese and has lived and worked in Japan for many years. She has a deep love for Japan and calls it her ‘second home’. In this book she has collated insights inspired by ancient Japanese wisdom and culture, and provides tips for readers looking to apply the concept of wabi sabi to different aspects of their life.

Lovers of interior styling and creating calm spaces at home will be very interested to read the chapter on ‘simplifying and beautifying’ in which Beth describes the Japanese appreciation of beauty and how it is experienced. She addresses simplification in our homes and making the most of the spaces we have, being flexible with our living spaces and the incorporation of nature and natural materials. I loved the practical inclusions related to soulful shopping and principles for creating a wabi sabi home.

There is so much goodness in this beautifully designed book. For me, it evoked a sense of reassurance and quite simply, a feeling of calmness. It’s definitely one I will be revisiting in future seasons of life.

Tracie Hartley

Tracie Hartley

Books, interiors and photography are like oxygen to Tracie Hartley. As a part-time librarian and full-time mum, dreamer and researcher, Tracie has curated an aesthetic entirely her own (follow her @traceharts). Obsessed with all things ‘slowing down’ and ‘simplifying’, we're grateful to have Tracie writing our monthly Book Reviews. Tracie lives on the Mid North Coast of NSW with her husband, two young kids and border collie.